Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Kathi Baron!

Last week on the blog was "Wedding Week" wherein I talked about all aspects of my wedding, but this week my local newspaper ran my column about all the very important local elements of the wedding and how much I enjoyed the venue where the wedding took place, Molly Malone's. Here's the column online. It's really short. Hope you can check it out and enjoy it. Anyway...

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! Last week I interviewed the amazing Kathy Charles about her book Hollywood Ending, which I just adored and I've chosen a random lucky winner to receive that book.... SammyJones57 from LiveJournal, you are my lucky winner!!!!

Today I have another awesome lady author to introduce you to... Kathi Baron, whose book Shattered just came out last month and is at the top of my TBR pile. Let's meet Kathi!

Q: Tell us all about Shattered. What inspired you to write it? And like me, you set your book in Oak Park, Illinois. Can you tell us why you chose that setting?

Kathi: Shattered is the story of Cassie, who is a teen violinist in the Chicago Youth Symphony, who experiences trauma. I was inspired to write this story because of the teens I'd worked with in Boston on a psychiatric ward back in the mid-eighties. They were admitted because they were suffering from depression and PTSD, as a result of being abused. What amazed me about them was they not only dealt with the trauma, but began to transform their lives. I didn't start out writing this story though. I began writing about a teen violinist because I thought that kind of character would be intriguing. As I got into it, I realized I wanted to find the courage to write about abuse; and eventually I realized I wanted to write about resilience. And though this is a story that is all made up, I wanted to give voice to the teens I had worked with a long time ago through this novel.

I chose Oak Park for the setting of the novel because I moved here 20 years ago and have loved living here since the very first day. When I'm out and about and see teens around, I often try to imagine a life here as a teen. Setting a novel here was actually a way to experience it as a teen through my imagination. Plus, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra is so cool, that if Cassie lived here, she could be a member of it.

Q: I know you have a playlist for Shattered. Can you tell us about five of the songs on it and how they relate to the book or the characters?

Kathi: One song is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which I used in a flashback, showing Cassie getting her first violin and how she taught herself to play it immediately without music. It was a way to show she is intuitively gifted. Another is Mendelssohn's Concerto No. 9 that she plays for her solo debut with the CYSO, because this is what a violin teacher I consulted said might be a typical piece a violinist would play in that situation. A third is "Amazing Grace." One way Cassie copes with the trauma is to imagine there is a violin goddess watching out for her. When she is home after running away, the first thing she plays is this hymn. It was my way of trying to weave in this divine thread. When she auditions for a million dollar violin, she plays Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto #11, because as before, this was recommended by the violin teacher. She closes playing "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles because it's one of my favorite songs; and because there is this gorgeous recording of it by violinist Tracy Silverman and I loved it so much, that I wrote it in, her playing that song.

Q: Since you are not a violinist yourself, how did you go about researching this book? Any interesting factoids that you learned that you can share with us?

Kathi: I knew very quickly that to write this novel, I would have to consult a violinist. I got very lucky when Jenny Cappelli of The Cappelli Institute in Oak Park agreed to help me. She's a violinist and teacher of players in the Chicago Youth Symphony and allowed me to email any and all questions. I asked her at least a million! She invited me to observe a lesson with one of her students and I took a lot of notes. Also, I knew at the end Cassie would need a new violin. I asked Joseph Cali at Kagan and Gaines Music Store if he could suggest one that she might get. He chose the Carlo Bergonzi violin which at the time was worth $125,000. By the time I sold the novel, that violin became worth a million dollars.

Q: Who were some of your inspirations to become a writer or the inspirations that keep you writing? Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we love learning about the women especially, but feel free to tell us about the men too.

Kathi: The young adult author, Louise Hawes, comes to mind. She was my first teacher when I went to study writing for children and young adults at Vermont College. She taught me about "freewriting," a technique I have used a lot ever since. I will often ask my characters to speak to me about something I'm struggling with and then write whatever comes to mind. Often, one idea or a good phrase will come out of it and I'll use it in the novel. She also was the one who talked to me about how writing is often an act of courage and encouraged me to go for it--to take on a tough topic, focusing on how someday the novel might inspire one person in need, that this would be worth doing it for.

And in terms of who keeps me writing, I would have to say Julia Cameron. Her book, The Artist's Way, and especially her notion that writing connects us to Spirit, has kept me going for a long time.

Q: How did you get your start writing? Was it something you've always done?

Kathi: I started writing poems in high school after I received a calender for Christmas with a short poem by Lois Wyse for each month. To me, it was the most amazing thing to express myself in this way! When I get stuck in a plot, I will often go back to writing poems to figure out what characters are feeling or needing to do next.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Kathi: Honestly, that was all such a long time ago! I had to go down the basement and look at my old box of vinyl albums. I'm pretty sure my first album was Sly and the Family Stone's Greatest Hits. I still get happy when any of those songs are played on the oldies station!

The first concert I ever went to was to hear Seals and Crofts. I loved that song, "Diamond Girl." That was also a very long time ago!

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Kathi: A huge moment for me was doing my graduate reading at Vermont College. Faculty in the audience had won some of the biggest writing awards, so it was intimidating. I was so nervous right beforehand, I thought I might jump out of my skin. But I did it. I read for 20 minutes and about 5 minutes into it, I settled down. I had written and rewritten those words over so many times and these in this reading were strong and right and while reading, I felt like I could lean on those words. And afterward, I got so many compliments from other students and faculty and I felt right then that I had moved to a new space in my life.

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for having me. This was just so much fun!

Thank you, Kathi, for visiting us today! I can tell already that Shattered is going to be a very powerful book. I love stories about the healing power of music and about girls like Cassie, who are strong and searching to understand themselves and their families. That brings us to...

Today's Contest:

Kathi was kind enough to offer up a signed copy of Shattered to one lucky winner. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment about Kathi's interview or her book. You can also get extra entries:

+1 for tweeting/blogging about today's interview/contest
+1 for tweeting/blogging about Kathi and Shattered

Note your extra entries in your comment along with an email address to contact you at. Then tune in a week from today to find out if you won!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, Stephanie. I'm dropping in 'cause the Win a Book inbox is empty and the scene I just wrote completely altered what comes next and ... I posted about this over at Win a Book.

Melanie said...

I love the violin! It's such a gorgeous instrument. It just looks sort of seductive to me. It's always kind of amazing to me what people can overcome.

I tweeted about the contest: http://twitter.com/MelaniesMusings/status/5048804965

Terry Flamm said...

I enjoyed the interview. It's interesting how many authors have used musicians as their main characters.

Pam said...

Interesting playlist...I've always wanted to play the violin (I'm sure I would have been a natural if my parents would have bought me one). Sounds like a fantastic book. I'm really looking forward to reading it when I win it (HINT!HINT!)

melacan at hotmail dot com

Llehn said...

I've never read a book with a violinist before. It sounds intriguing!


Linda Henderson said...

I enjoyed the interview and the book sounds very interesting. Would love to win a copy.

seriousreader at live dot com

June Sengpiehl said...

I loved reading abut the book and how Kathi came to write it. It sounds fascinating.
June Sengpiehl

Lorijo Metz said...

Hi Stephanie,

I love to read about what inspires other writers... and this interview definitely inspired me. I don't usually have the patience to read blogs, but I think I may enjoy following yours. Your rock! Thanks

Julia Buckley said...

I'm a fan of Kathi's work--can't wait to read the next thing she writes!